Last month I had the pleasure of talking travel with Clem Bason, the CEO of goSeek. goSeek is an up and coming hotel booking site that goes to great lengths to get you the best deal.
As someone who loves travelling, it always boggles my mind when someone simply says, “I’m not into travelling.” I think my jaw drops every time. To me, it’s like saying, “Oh, I’m not into having fun and interesting experiences.”
But to each their own, I suppose.
So when I find out someone is into travelling, I get very excited and very curious about their travel background and like to know their reasons for travelling. We started the interview doing just that. I asked how Clem got into travelling and why he enjoys it so much.
Clem grew up on the east coast in Delaware and didn’t catch the travel bug until later on in life. His family never went west of the Rockies. Until he was 25, he was probably never more west than Ohio. Then his work sent him out to Denver and he was amazed by how beautiful the mountains were. He went out to California for school and was amazed by the beautiful mountains AND the ocean. That was more than enough to convince him to stay.
Why the CEO of goSeek Likes Travelling
Like myself, Clem considers himself to be more of an introvert. While his wife prefers to meet the people in a place, he prefers just being in the place and seeing how the people live. He really enjoys using Airbnb and experiencing the culture.
At the time of the interview, the last trip he went on was to Thailand. He found Chiang Mai to be a wonderful, super safe city and found himself walking and exploring for hours everyday. Everyone was so friendly in Chiang Mai. Whereas Bangkok is apparently quite the opposite.
The Story behind goSeek
Clem and many of the people at goSeek used to work for Hotwire – which is considered the outlet mall of travel and used to be the cheapest place to get a travel deal. However, they saw an explosion of different ways to get deals – such as applying a coupon or finding a special price on your smartphone that you can’t find anywhere else.
At the same time, they saw some research coming out that showed travel shoppers are searching an increasing number of sites, 20+, before booking, yet they were doing all this research and searching all these places to find the lowest price and yet increasingly they were feeling like they weren’t getting it.
You’re doing a lot work and not feeling the work is paying off. goSeek wants to a) make the work much easier and b) make sure it pays off for you
goSeek looks like a meta search site, except that they take the lowest rates you’d find anywhere else, then we go out and hunts for discounts and compares them to these rates. They find the very lowest price and compare it to the lowest we found elsewhere. According to Clem, “Our best is this rate with a coupon, CAA, AAA vs the lowest, their best, we’d find on any other travel site. We calls this the versus presentation: Us vs. Them.”
After all the work was done with the computers, it was found on 7 out of 10 hotels, goSeek can beat their price.
I mentioned how I really liked the layout of goSeek’s site. Everything is at a glance. You can see the prices of the hotels and what the other travel sites are listing that hotel for. If you really wanted to go add another tab, you can click on it and you’ll be redirected to Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelocity,etc.
When it comes to comparing large amounts of data, visual presentation is key and goSeek presents everything in one, clean package.
Booking on goSeek
During the first year, the site took you somewhere else to book. They are currently adding a booking feature on goSeek. For some deals, you can actually book on goSeek. They’re bringing the capability to do it right on the site, especially on mobile phones. About 60% of visitors use the site from their cell phones. With about half the discounts or so, you’ll be able to get it directly on the site.
The Technology That Helps Get You the Best Deal
Editors all over the country are constantly watching for deals. They input the attributes of the coupon such as when does it expiry and does it have a minimum purchase associated with it. From this point, the machines take over and check that coupon against every hotel because the coupons apply to some hotels and not others. Machines take into account the fine print that is seen on every deal and coupon. It’s made so that when the user does their search, goSeek only presents the coupon or the deal that is appropriate for the search. ie If you need to spend $100 to get this coupon, they won’t show it for under $100.
You don’t have to worry about the “Sorry, it doesn’t apply” error. Which, if you’re like me, drives me nuts.
The Frequency of Updating Discounts
goSeek sees new types of coupons daily. In big cities, the discounts on your smartphone may change every 15 min at you get closer to the end of the day. Smartphone rates are meant for last-minute bookings. Hotels have several rooms left, and as it gets later, they want to fill those rooms, so they keep on cutting the prices. In big cities, there is a lot of movement in prices. If you’re booking for tonight, in New York city, at the end of the day the rates will probably get updated every 5 min. Las Vegas is the same way and changes the rates all the time.
3rd Party Booking Sites vs. Directly Booking on Hotel Sites
When it comes to hotels, I’m not loyal to any particular hotel or hotel chain. The bottom line is that I want a hotel that gives me the best bang for my buck which is why I’m more inclined to look at 3rd party booking sites versus a particular hotel site.
Hotels are trying to give reasons to book directly with them in an aggressive way that they haven’t in the past. With Hilton, if you’re a Loyalty club member – you get a lower price on their site than you would at Expedia. In addition to that, being a member gets you free wifi and smartphone enabled check in. The hotel is trying to give you reasons to come there vs. Expedia. They pay Expedia, on average 15% of your purchase amount every time you book on the 3rd party site. Marriott is also becoming aggressive with respect to booking, which is starting a bit of conflict between the hotels themselves and the booking sites.
Transparency of costs
While the transparency of the booking fee, has improved, the resort fee is a different story. The resort fee is what the hotel charges you. They will disclose it, but don’t charge it to you upfront. You don’t pay it until you get to the hotel. You’ll pay $25/night to get things such as “free parking” or “free wifi. It’s a way for them to charge you more without having to put it in the upfront price. It’s the hotels are driving that. Clem doesn’t think it’s good for the customer. He says,”There is an investigation from the government into these types of practices because they view it as deceiving the consumer. It’s just a way for them to move money out of that upfront rate and get you later. I suspect that’s going to go away. It’s not transparent and I think it’s not good for the customer. The government’s going to wake up, slap some hands and make it start to fade away.”
goSeek bridges the gap between customers and Hotwire
I’ve only used Hotwire once when we went on a road trip to Boston. The hotel was very nice, but the downside was that it was outside of the city and not within walking distance. So we would either take a shuttle bus to get to downtown or public transportation. While we did save some money on the hotel, we were sacrificing the location, which can always be a downside when you are limited on travel time. If anything, I would think most people would consider location to be crucial because they want to be close to the restaurants, bars and attractions the city has to offer.
With Hotwire – you’re always sacrificing something, where it be the room or location. However, with goSeek when you picked your hotel and dates, take 2 min to check goSeek and you may find you save 20%. You won’t sacrifice anything. Instead, you’ll just save the money.
Where the Future of goSeek Will Be Going
When asked about the timeline of adding more products to goSeek, Clem says:
“New discounts keep popping up for hotels, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do there for the remainder of the year. We’re putting booking on our site as I mentioned. And we’re also expanding a little bit and doing hotels in some international destinations. So when I went to Thailand, the truth is I had three hotel stays and goSeek beat the other sites on all three. I was really surprised. I was like, wow, I didn’t even know we could do this. We didn’t focus on having hotels over internationally at all, but we would get them. We source our hotels from a variety of different people. So they were coming, we just weren’t paying attention. Now we’re paying attention and we’re building that out. So, I think what you’re going to see is better and better discounts on more hotels for the remainder of this year. And then maybe next year, we’d start to add in other products like rental cars. There’s a lot of deals out there on rental cars. Flights we’ll have, but it’s harder to find. You never see coupons on flights. It’s harder to find the discounts, to be honest.”
Travel Will Be More Affordable
I asked Clem about up and coming travel trends and his response was:
“Right now you’ve got gas prices and oil prices falling everywhere, right? So that will make flights, especially international flights cheaper and cheaper in the near term. So that’s right. It’ll be easier to get where you want to go from a price perspective.
Then you have more competition particularly in Asia right now. So the flights from the west coast in Canada and US into Asia, at this point are the lowest I’ve seen in 10- 20 years. It’s mostly the Chinese airlines that are really aggressive and competing, but they fly to every major city- Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok.
And then hotels are going to get cheaper because you have Airbnb coming in as an option to pressure hotel prices. So you’re lodging prices are going to come down too. So you’re going to have the amount to stay and to fly- I think it’s going to be low and I think that’s really exciting and hopefully people can take that extra trip.”
Advice and Tips From a Fellow Traveller
[Tweet “You find the discounts in the most unlikely of places.”]
Clem advises travelers to do their reading and do their research because there’s always something unexpected out there for a deal. Take for instance, car rentals. In the US in the past , the cheapest place to rent a car was through Hotwire and Priceline. But now get this folks, it’s:
You’re going to find 75% of the time or more, you’ll find that by far they have the lowest price. And no one has a clue (until now, that included me!). Car rentals can save you a few hundred dollars. The discounts get better as the car size gets larger, so that especially benefits travelers with families.
It’s interesting how people have the flying “Saturday to Saturday” mentality. If you’re flying, try to fly during the week. Sometimes you can cut your price in half if you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
And of course, be sure to check out goSeek and you may be able to save 20% or more on your hotel.